This research report presents the findings of case study research with youth in six locations in Zimbabwe, carried out within the Power, Violence, Citizenship and Agency (PVCA) programme. It shows how young people experience growing up as citizens in a country known for its repressive regime, and highlights the differences for young men and young women.
Young people consider political violence as one of many forms of violence and other challenges they face in life. Election periods bring increased risk, when youth feel targeted. After the turbulence of elections has waned, surveillance by state security agents persists, affecting how young people use the public sphere. Between elections, forms of structural violence pose more challenges to youth than physical, political violence: patronage along party or ethnic lines is a major barrier to finding jobs, and generational differences deny young people a voice. High unemployment levels can result in youth participating in violence orchestrated by political actors.
This research shows also that family and peers have a strong influence on how young people choose to engage in the public sphere and respond to the polarised political environment. Youth empowerment strategies thus need to go beyond economic empowerment. This report argues that a shift in vision is required so that government, aid agencies and civil society recognise the importance of active citizenship among youth and make it a priority area for interventions. Programmes should build the citizen capabilities of young people and improve relations between them, their parents and communities, and public authority.